A browner shade of pale

Diverse City
By SHAY STEWART-BOULEY  |  May 23, 2012

Here in the least racially diverse US state, there isn't much danger of whites becoming a minority anytime soon, given that 94.3 percent of the population is non-Hispanic white. But the writing is on the wall for America to get much browner, and more golden too, with the Census Bureau releasing information this past week that in 2011, for the first time in US history, more minority babies were born than white babies.

As media reports tell us this trend means non-Hispanic whites will account for only 47 percent of the population — gasp! less than half — by 2050, the national fate of whites will be to become a minority, right?

That's what media stories from some reputable publications and networks are telling us, so it's true, right? Right?


Before white folks who have young'uns right now start figuring that little Sebastian will get to college on United White Persons College Fund scholarships, we need to take a closer look at these numbers.

Being less than half of the population doesn't automatically make one a minority. All the other races have to split that remaining 53 percent of the pie between then — the African-Americans, the Hispanics (white and non-white), the Asians, the Native Americans, the Arabs, the mixed-race people, and everyone else. Not a single one of those groups will be larger than whites, even in 2050. Y'all at the opposite end of the racial color spectrum from me will still be the single largest group nationwide.

Sure, there are states where whites will probably end up minorities. In California and Texas, whites are already less than half the population (though still the largest single group). In New Mexico they're the second-largest group, with Hispanics at 46.3 percent and whites at 40.5 percent. And in Hawaii, whites really are a minority at 22.7 percent, with Asians at 38.6 percent and mixed-race folks at 23.6 percent.

Still, I don't seem to recall white people lacking for power, wealth, or influence in any of those states.

My biggest problem with the media (and nervous white people online) erroneously tossing around the notion that whites are imminently about to become a minority isn't that it shows a startling lack of knowledge of what numbers mean. What bugs me is it feeds racial fear and racial tension.


Because the only way you can think of whites being a minority in 2050 is if you assume that all non-whites and the white Hispanics are uniformly against the non-Hispanic whites and waiting for the chance to pounce on them as one monolithic group.

But non-white people and white Hispanics don't see the world through the same lens. The growth in minorities has primarily been fueled by Asian and Hispanic groups, two races that have a large array of ethnicities within their ranks. Let me blunt: Cubans, Mexicans, and Puerto Ricans, for example, don't tend to identify with each other all that often — they can be as different as night and day in terms of class and needs. A Cuban in Florida will rarely identify with a Mexican in California. History bears this out, and my "splash of Mexican" along with my overwhelming blackness knows it's true, too. The same goes for Asian groups, where the Japanese, Chinese, and Vietnamese, for example — not to mention Indians and Pakistanis — have very different cultures and social agendas.

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